Despite Vita entering the final phase of its life heading into 2017, there were a handful of indie porting studios who showed up and begun porting their whole catalog over to the handheld – one major company who did this was Ratalaika Games, but another who are seemingly less well known but just as prolific are Sometimes You (who have released over 14 titles between the middle of 2017 through to the current day, starting with their own game Energy Cycle).
With their newest release Planet RIX-13 on the horizon and a few more projects teased for the rest of 2019, I took the opportunity to ask about the company’s mantra and their future fans involving Sony’s handheld. What I didn’t expect to find in response was a dedicated solo developer with a clear love of Vita and a lot of personal drive to help other indies bring their games to consoles.
First off, tell me a little bit about yourselves! Who makes up Sometimes You and what do you all do?
Hi! Locally ‘Sometimes You’ is mostly one-man company for that moment :). My name is Evgeniy, I’m living in Moscow and I’m in charge for all of porting/publishing here. My girlfriend Alina helps with some art (she drew the original ‘Sometimes You’ logo by the way), a lot of other developers and artists from different parts of the world help with various tasks. For example, my friend Andrew from USA often helps me with English descriptions for our games. He’s a native speaker so he knows how to transform my «Engrish» text into «English»! At the same time he’s also a developer (part of Ethrea Dreams team) and he’s in charge for awesome Farnham Fables retro-series. So from one side there’s lot of different people involved in our projects, but from other side ‘Sometimes You’ has no office and it’s just a one guy with two laptops on his desk.
What is the company’s history? When were you founded and what was your first project?
That’s a very long story, but here’s a super-short version :). I worked as game journalist and wrote various game related articles since 2002, for some time was involved in video editing, music and photography. In 2011 we got the idea to make a small game and that’s how our first project Retention was born. This is a one-of-a-kind photoalbum-game. I have wrote a game code on Visual Basic, Alina took and edited some photos that we shot. We added there music that was composed together with my friend Muddasheep and that’s it! Whole game is just about 10 minutes long, but it took couple of months to finish it. Game was released on Desura which went bankrupt shortly after and as far as I remember we didn’t received any royalties from it. After that I started to work with STEAM – first with my own games, then as publisher for other small developers. In last years ‘Sometimes You’ mostly moved to consoles market and here’s where we now.
How did you get into the business of porting other studios’ games to consoles?
When I started to port my first game to consoles (it was original Energy Cycle for Xbox One) least of all I wanted to do it myself. At a minimum, porting costs a lot of money, which I didn’t have at that time. I tried to find some partner with console porting experience who will be interested to port and publish my game for percent from sales. And… I couldn’t find literally anyone suitable. There was huge companies who got no interest in indie-games and some other indie-developers who dealt with their own games only. Therefore, I had to understand the whole process and port the game on myself. And now I help other developers who are in the same situation as me a few years ago 🙂
How do your partnerships with independent developers to port their titles usually happen? Do you approach them or do they come to you?
It’s 50/50 – in half of cases developers contact me, in other half I see a game with potential and write to developer. Most sad that some of developers doesn’t believe in themselves and even when I contact them with porting/publishing proposal – they respond that doesn’t think their game is good enough for consoles… it is a pity that some decent games will not be available to console players because of this. If we have an agreement with developer – we sign a contract and start work. Porting is a long process – in best cases I could prepare everything for console release in 3-4 months, but sometimes it could take almost year for a one game!
How did you first get into contact with Sony? Was it an easy process to get hold of a Vita Dev kit?
I think first step was made when I registered on Sony site for developers: https://partners.playstation.net
That’s a good entry point for every developer who want to make games for PlayStation on their own. I can’t say that it was hard to get development hardware, but it’s definitely a long process.
How is the submission process for Sony compared to Nintendo? Do you find one more onerous than the other?
I can’t speak a lot about that because of NDA’s, but every company (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) got their advantages and disadvantages for indie-developer. You need to understand how that works and get used to that – after that everything will be fine.
In general, how is Vita to develop for? Do you run into regular difficulties in porting games across?
Well Vita is an old portable hardware. Portable hardware is always not so powerful and in that case it’s also almost 8 years old :). I could say that Vita’s hardware is good enough to run Unity powered 2D games at 30-60 FPS after optimization, but in case with 3D games porting will be much harder.
I noticed that some of your games – such as Mooseman and SkyTime – have trophies for Vita but didn’t actually release. Is this due to technical difficulties in getting the titles running on the platform? Were they planned at one time?
You’re right – these games was planned for Vita release first, but got cancelled in the end. Both of them work on Vita, but framerate is too low for release and it’s obvious that it will take too much man-hours to make a good port for them. By the way, SkyTime was originally planned as Vita exclusive title and in the end wasn’t released on Vita at all…
Do you attempt to port every title you sign to Vita or are you able to tell from the outset if it’s able to run?
For some 3D titles there’s obvious that Vita port will be impossible, but as for 2D ones – I’m trying to run on Vita all of them.
What genre do you have most fun working with?
I can’t say that I have any favorite genres over others, but I’m often very surprised how developers implement some ideas in their own code. When you play the game and it just works you often didn’t even think how this or that thing was realized. ‘Under the hood’ there’s very interesting solutions and I got a lot of fun studying them during the porting.
Do you have a favourite game (past or future) that you’ve worked/are working on?
I think NORTH porting was one of the most challenging and interesting experiences. The original development team had no time at all to spend on console version for that moment, there was no controller support in PC version and controller support was never planned at the development stage. I remember that it was a tricky task for me because game core use kind of «visual scripting» and I have never worked with this technology before. In the end I see that lot of console players liked NORTH so all of this was done for a reason. Visual style and music combination of that game still impress me even when I played it more than ten times. Hopefully we’ll see more games from «Outlands» team one day!
Are there any dream ports you’d love to work on? Or any genres you want to tackle next?
It’s hard to predict, but I’m porting couple of really cool indie-titles right now that will be released later in 2019 at ‘Sometimes You’ and I hope console players will love them! Also I help couple of other companies to port their games on consoles. Don’t sure if I would be even mentioned in ‘Credits’ there, but this is a very interesting experience for me as well.
Do future Sometimes You projects still have a chance of landing on Vita? Any unannounced ones that you can give us some hints on?
Yes, of course! We got two Vita games that gonna be released this January – first one is Planet RIX-13 that scheduled for release on January 16th. At least one or two games should also follow in Spring-Summer season. As long as Sony accept new games to be released on Vita store – we’ll try to make them here!
Are you continuing to work on original content like Energy Cycle alongside your porting work?
I’m trying to, but there’s just not enough hours in the day :). I’m working very slow as game developer. Making of Energy Cycle Edge took me about a year and Energy Invasion even more time, while both of them are not kind of «big» games at all. I got couple of interesting prototypes here, but no idea when they’ll evolve into some kind of game…
Have you considered looking into physical releases of your games?
I’m trying to make it happen one day, but it’s too hard for myself, so I’m speaking with different partners who made some physical releases in the past. Hopefully at the some point we’ll have an agreement about it!
Finally, two questions I’m asking everyone – what are some of your favourite games that you’ve played on Vita?
I think my favorite Vita title is The Binding of Isaac from Edmund McMillen. I played it a lot on STEAM and after some break played it a lot again on Vita. It’s really addictive! First AAA titles for Vita like Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Killzone: Mercenary was really great too, but sadly I’m still didn’t get around to finishing them!
Which of the Vita models is your favourite (LCD or OLED)?
I got four different Vita’s at home (even five with PS Vita TV) – three of them are FAT and only one is SLIM. FAT ones got better screen for sure, but I think I’ll prefer SLIM one for it’s weight and “how comfortable it is in the hands”.